KINGSTON, NJ - Students spent part of their summer immersing in the “stars” of a second language rather than gazing at them through a telescope in the night sky, thanks to a federal program.

Thirty-six students at the YingHua International School took part in the special STARTALK Teacher and Student program. Participants spend three weeks of camp learning Chinese in this specialty immersion school.

“This is our second year,” YingHua Director of Marketing Felicia Pan-Fea said. “The federal government will visit and evaluate how the program went.”

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The program is administered through grants, and then it’s the responsibility of each recipient to develop a curriculum and then implement it with students.

Pan-Fea said that was the most challenging part for the participating teachers, most of whom had never dealt with dual language learning before.

A group of 14 teachers from across the country including Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut worked with the school’s StarTalk Program Director, Michelle Tan, and Director of the Middle School Program, Wen-Lin Sua, from June 25 to July 3 in crafting this year’s curriculum for the program.

Students in grades 3-9 were then grouped into three levels of 12 students each from June 25 to July 13 based on their proficiency in learning Chinese, including novice-low, novice-mid, and intermediate.
 

The program started in 2016 and was launched by the National Security Agency (NSA) under the National Security Language Initiative and working with the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, according to the program’s website.

The purpose is to expand teaching of “strategically important languages” in the United States, including Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu, according to the site.

“I think (language learning) is very important,” Pan-Fea said. “We live in a world that needs to produce global children.”

The students had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Chinese American History, which consists of a walking tour of Chinatown in New York City, shop at traditional Chinese markets, order food and negotiate in Chinese, as well as learn to make a Chinese dish called a Chinese steamed dumpling.

The YingHua International School is private, independent, co - educational, day school, presenting a Chinese immersion program for children from Early Learning, Age 2 through eighth grade employing the International Baccalaureate program curriculum, Pan-Fea said.

It was founded in 2007 according to the School’s website.

The School also has after-school programs to supplement its curriculum in which students from other area school may enroll.

Pan-Fea said the federal program is also being used in West Windsor to teach Chinese to kindergarten students as well as an Indian language component there.

She said the School hopes to continue the federal program next summer.